Beyond the Norm: How to Win the Great Designer Search Part 1- Essay Questions

Ryan Normandin
December 08, 2017

Hey, everyone! It’s me, Charlie! You might remember me from my truly inspired writing over the summer, where I dispensed wisdom that undoubtedly helped many of you ascend to near-prohood. As a near-pro, I’ve been crushing hard since my writing over the summer. I’ve Top 64’ed all three PPTQs I’ve attended (for those just getting into the game, PPTQ’s are among the most competitive, prestigious, salt-filled tournaments), Top 64’ed the last Game Day, and even Top 64’ed my FNM – every. Single. Week. The numbers don’t lie; my results are undeniable. With stellar performances playing a game revolving around math and dragons, you can see why I’m qualified to be paid as a top-tier righter.

However, I have some sad news for my legions of near-pro fans. Pretty soon, you won’t have the opportunity to lose to my Standard Monoblue Aggro, Modern Monoblue Cephalid Tribal, or Legacy Mardu Vehicles. Why, you ask?

Because I’ve accepted a job to work at Wizards of the Coast.

And by “accepted,” I mean “will accept,” and by “job,” I mean “internship.” But earlier this week, I spat a sparkling mess of Cinnamon Toast Crunch all over my computer screen when I read that WOTC would be taking applications for the Great Designer Search 3.

(Brief aside: This is yet more evidence that Mark Rosewater has staged a hostile takeover of the entire company. Unstable and GDS3 in the same week?! Rosewater is really flexing his muscles…)

When I’d finished wiping The Taste You Can See off my computer screen, I eagerly scrolled through the Terms and Conditions to ensure that I was eligible. This was not a given; I was not eligible for GDS2 because I refused to agree with their Terms and Conditions. What was so horrible about the T’s and C’s last time, you might ask? Well, in Round 3, they gave creativity a weight of 25%. As an undeniable creative type, that was where I was hoping to gain my edge. As such, I could not submit an application without violating the very core of who I was as a person.

(…also, due to a long string of misunderstandings with the US Federal Government, I was not eligible to work in the US at the time. Those misunderstandings have since been resolved. Let me tell you, a new name and social security number really can work wonders!)

I apprehensively scrolled through the Terms and Conditions for the GDS3 before finding what I was looking for – in Round 3, creativity was to be given a weight of 30%. Yes! My creative soul rejoiced, and I immediately signed up. I then signed up again the following morning after Wizards announced that their website had been broken and nothing was actually processed. Clever! I thought. A secret Round 1! Filter out those who don’t really want it! Wizards’ prowess in technology and marketing is one of the reasons I’m most excited to work for them.

I’m so overwhelmingly confident that I’m getting this job, I’ve decided to brazenly post my exact strategy on the internet to my hundreds thousands millions of readers. That way, I’ll at least have a challenge in the Top 8! Let me take you round by round.

Round 1 – The Essay Questions

Obviously, the essay questions for GDS3 have not yet been posted. As such, I will be answering the questions from GDS2 to give you an idea of my approach. (Note: In an attempt to update the questions, I’ve changed all instances of “Extended” to “Modern.”)

  1. Introduce yourself and explain why you are a good fit for this internship.

My name is Charlie, and I’m a near-pro. I know that Mark Rosewater is the judge of this thing, so I just want to make it very clear that I love the following things:

  • The color pie. Heck, all pies. Chocolate, double chocolate, chocolate crumble, you name it!
  • I have several pet squirrels. They’re dope.
  • This is basically my blog. I love communicating with my fans.
  • Have you heard my new podcast, Travel to my Place of Employment? I have several episodes, and I even let slip subtle hints about upcoming articles sometimes!
  • The color pie. All kinds of colors. White, blue, black, red, AND green. But not purple. NEVER purple.
  • My original craft was television writing. I applied for a position on Roseanne, once upon a time. They didn’t answer, so I followed up like a bazillion times. Still have the restraining order.
  • I have a tattoo on my forearm that reads, “Colorless is not a color.”
  • I have a tattoo on my other forearm that reads, “Restrictions breed creativity.”
  • I have a shrine to the color pie in my bedroom. I pray to it at least five times a day.
  1. You are instructed to move an ability from one color to another. This ability must be something used in every set (i.e. discard, direct damage, card drawing etc.). You may not choose an ability that has already been color shifted by R&D. What ability do you shift and to what color do you shift it? Explain why you would make that shift.

I would move counterspells, discard, and creature kill effects to Green. You see, I have my finger on the pulse of this game, so I understand your long-term plans. Based on the last five years, it’s clear that you intend to eventually abolish the color pie and leave us with just Green, the SuperColor. I’m here to help you expedite the process!

(But also, the Color Pie is Sacred and Holy and it’s perfect just the way it is.)

  1. What block do you feel did the best job of integrating design with creative? What is one more thing that could have been done to make it even better?

Kamigawa. The only thing I can possibly think of that would’ve made it better would’ve been more Splice. I think you should’ve really leaned into the parasitism and had Splice onto Ninja, Splice onto hard-to-pronounce names, and Splice onto Splice.

Also, more ninjas. I would’ve randomly printed booster packs with missing cards to better represent the flavor of a hidden ninja.

  1. R&D has recently been looking at rules in the game that aren't pulling their weight. If you had to remove an existing rule from the game for not being worth its inclusion, what would it be?

“You may concede at any time” is the worst rule in the game. As a Lantern Control player, nothing brings me greater joy than watching my opponent’s soul slowly bleed out of them. By allowing them to concede, you’re depriving me of my joy, and Magic is supposed to be fun.

A close second is the whole “kill via damage” thing. I would abolish life totals. It’s too easy reducing a player’s life to zero; it literally happens almost every single game. Milling should be the only win condition. You get more visceral reactions from people when you mill them one card at a time with an Ensnaring Bridge out. Also, I don’t like that I lose to Burn.

  1. Name a card currently in Standard that, from a design standpoint, should not have been printed. What is the card and why shouldn't we have printed it?

Kaladesh block.

Nailed it.

  1. What do you think design can do to best make the game accessible to newer players?

I think friendly, practical reminders incorporated right into the card would be great! Such as:


Here’s one for Commander:


You can even make one for Legacy:


  1. What do you think design can do to best make the game attractive to experienced players?

This is a tough one… no one hates this game more than experienced players, so it’s a big ask. You can’t go wrong with Reddit, so I’ve pooled a selection of some of the most common asks from the talented near-pros on the esteemed site:

  • Higher power level.
  • Lower power level.
  • Unban Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
  • Ban Attune with Aether.
  • Print better answers.
  • Wait a minute! Not that good!
  • Ban Rogue Refiner.
  • Print a legendary creature card for that minor story character that we all love.
  • Redesign that legendary creature card that completely butchered the design for that minor story character that we all love.
  • Ban Whirler Virtuoso.
  • Reprint Siege Rhino, but make it playable this time. Give it deathtouch and first strike, at least. Just not in the same format as Polukranos; that poor hydra needs to see some play.
  • If a player places an Energy counter onto the table, just ban them.
Another victim of being invalidated by Power Creep 

    1. Of all the mechanics currently in Modern, which one is the best designed? Explain why.

    There are so many fantastic mechanics in Modern that I’ve ranked them here:

    • Dredge – It really helps to emphasize the flavor behind Zombies being completely unbeatable. Of course, after you realize the Zombie apocalypse is happening, you just hope and pray that you can find that cage you bought from that grafdigger that’s buried somewhere in your bag… your entire survival depends on that ONE TOOL… sure hope you can find it!
    • Noble Hierarch – Oops, I meant Exalted. Same thing.
    • Phyrexian Mana – Really helps new players to understand a tough concept: your life total doesn’t matter. Also, the color pie is a lie.
    • Morph – The look on my opponent’s face when I morph a creature in Modern is always great. The look on the judge’s face when I “forget” to reveal it at the end of the match because it was actually my third Aether Vial… less great.
    • Infect – Nothing says “slowly spreading contamination poisoning your bloodstream” like a trampling, hexproof, immense 20/20 monstrosity devouring you on Turn 3.
    • Forecast – I don’t actually know what this mechanic does, but I’m a big fan of The Weather Channel.
    • Tron – The design of the Tronlands is a brilliant lesson for all those young, aspiring capitalists out there – if you can form a monopoly and control all the means of production, you’re going to be very, very wealthy. Also, if you ever need to fudge those numbers on your corporate empire’s balance sheet, just remember: sometimes, 1 + 1 + 1 = 7.
    1. Of all the mechanics currently in Modern, which one is the worst designed? Explain why.
      • Storm – Wizards keeps telling me that creatures are the best and combat is great. Why is there a mechanic that wants you to cast, like… spells…?
      • Tron – URZA IS DEAD, GUYS. Who is running all of his businesses? How did he even have time to run businesses when he was busy galloping (well… not in his later years… touchy subject) around fighting Phyrexians?
      • Cycling – What’s the flavor here? I’ve never read a Magic story in which Jace rides a bicycle to work. But now that I’ve written it… I would totally read that story:

    After erasing his memory for the seventh time this year, can Jace find the correct route to the Azorius Senate? He’ll need his resourcefulness, plenty of blue cloaks, and a huge helping of good ol’ friendship if he wants to make it in time for the big bill signing!

    • Shroud – The fact that it’s not Hexproof is just straight-up garbage.
    • Flying – This mechanic is trash. HOW ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO BLOCK THESE CREATURES?! F***ing Lingering Souls.
    1. Choose a plane to revisit other than Dominaria or Mirrodin. What is a mechanical twist we could add if we revisit this plane?

    Couple ideas:

    Kaladesh – In the exciting return to Ravnica and Mirrodin’s love child, all the energy has dried up! The Guildpact will have to actually work for a win this time, as there are no Marvelous freebies being handed out. Also, EMRAKUL! Tagline: We swear, guys, there’s really no Energy this time! …in the first set…

    Innistrad – I know what the players want. In the exciting return to the horror plane, the citizens try to recover after locking Emrakul in the moon. But a mysterious force is driving its citizens mad – again! What could it be? I’m’rakul not going to spoil it, but it starts with “EM” and rhymes with “I’m-a-tool!” Tagline: “When I said it wasn’t my time… I was just off by like 3 months.” –Emrakul, Promised to be Banned Again

    Theros – Jace ascends to godhood – but is angsty about it. What if, like, no one likes his miracles? Will his new guitar skillz woo Liliana when he asks her to Nyx-Prom? Why does no one understand him? Also… what’s his name again? Might’ve mindwiped a little too aggressively there…  The story writes itself. Also, Ulamog and Kozilek had baby Eldrazis, and they’re on Theros! Tagline: When Jace ascends, can he meet his destiny and become… the God of Rock and Roll?

    Kamigawa – Let’s not mess with perfection here. It’s basically a straight reprint set. Just with more Eldrazi.

                And that’s all the time I’ve got today, folks! As you can see, I’m the surefire pick to win GDS3. Be sure to check back in a couple weeks when I tackle the multiple choice portion, and let me know in the comments or via Twitter which of my answers you plan on stealing for your own GDS3 application!

    Ryan is a grinder from Boston with SCG & GP Top 8’s and a PT Day 2. His fragile self-esteem is built on approval from others, so be sure to tell him what you think of his articles on Twitter @RyanNormandin.

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